Saturday, April 24, 2010

St. John (Day 6 - Part 1)

There was a goodly amount of rain (I like the word 'goodly' but never get a chance to use it) today and that made travel around the island treacherous. The roads on this very mountainous island are steep and curvy. Even with our jeep, when the roads get slick, some of those turn-offs are tough. So we came back to Andante after about 5 minutes of unpromising driving. This was a good decision as we had 30 minutes of solid rain shortly after we returned. I'm on vacation, dammit, I do not want stress!

We finally got out (finally, hah! it was 10AM). Today, we decided to do the Reef Bay Trail, which 'descends 975 feet' into the semi-tropical forest and connects to trails that lead to some of the bays for which there are no decent roads (Reef Bay and the Lameshur Bays), as well as the petroglyph carvings in the center of the island.  I like hiking but I'm hardly what you would call and avid hiker, so we had to learn the hard way that a trail that 'descends 975 feet' is not 975 feet long. Oh no! It twists and turns on its way down and was actually 1.8 miles one way. Not the Trail of Tears but, in that steamy forest after a rain, we felt pretty sticky going down. As you can see, though, there was plenty of scenery to keep your mind occupied.

Along the way, we saw some plantation ruins (very ruined), although it sounds like there's some better stuff on the trail that foes all the way down to Reef Bay from the petroglyphs (maybe next time?). There was loads of wildlife, because we could hear it and see all the holes and pools and crevices under tree roots that suggested enough critters to make me expect Yoda to come walking out and: "Away put your weapon; I mean you no harm." The lizards were everywhere (see pic), leaping out of our path and climbing up trees.  Some were so close that I declared I was going to catch one.  Jim absolutely forbade me to touch anything and - probably for the best - cooler heads prevailed. Who knows what kind of plant I might have stumbled over in chasing one? 

Something I would not have touched for worlds were the giant millipedes we saw in the trees. I know some of these creepy crawlies have poison on their scales and some - not sure if it's the kind we saw - can spray stuff. There was plenty of prettier creatures though. Lots of butterflies that seemed to fly just ahead of us going down the path like in a storybook when there is a little fairy that beckons you on to the some gruesome fate. We didn't see any hummingbirds, though they were pretty much a daily sight around Andante. We did see some weird, big black bird up in the canopy making loud whooping sounds. There was also many bananaquits, these cute little black birds with white stripes on their heads and bright yellow breasts. They have a very nice call, and they are the official bird of St. John. And of course, there were tons of massive trees. Some of the slender trees were growing in helixes and wide curves as they swept up from the floor towards the light.

Definitely a good hike.  After a long while, we finally reached the junction to the path leading to the petroglyphs. Just .3 more miles to go! But this entry is long enough, so I'll save the rest for part 2!

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